zen habits : breathe

Create Time to Change Your Life

Post written by Leo Babauta.

When I decided to change my life a little over 5 years ago, I had a very common problem: I didn’t have the time.

I wanted to exercise and find time for my family and eat healthier (instead of the fast-food junk I’d been eating) and read more and write and be more productive and increase my income.

Unfortunately there are only 24 hours in a day, and we sleep for about 8 of them. Subtract the hours we spend eating (3), showering and dressing and fixing up (1), cleaning and running errands (1), driving (2), working (8) … and you’re left with an hour or two at most. Often less.

Eventually I figured out how to do all the things I wanted to do. I’ve achieved all of that and more, and in fact I have more leisure time now than ever. But first I had to figure out the fundamental problem: how could I find the time to change my life?

I know many of you face the same problem — you’ve told me as much. So I thought I’d share some of what I did in the beginning, in hopes that it’ll help.

The First Step

You must make a commitment. You have to decide that you really want to make a change, and that it’s more important than almost anything else.

For me, only my family was more important — and in fact I was making these change for my family as well as for myself. So these changes I was making were really my top priority in life.

It has to be that urgent for you. Think of this not as “improving your life” but saving it. The changes I made saved my life — I am so much healthier, my marriage is better, my relationships with my kids have improved, I am happier rather than depressed.

If you don’t feel you’re saving your life then you won’t make the tough changes needed.

Next Steps

Once I made the mental commitment, I took small steps to give myself a little wiggle room to breathe and move:

In general, find the things that eat up your time that are less important than the changes you want to make. That’s almost everything except the things you need to live — work and eating and stuff like that. Cut back on them where you can.

Simplify Commitments

I had a lot of commitments in my life — I coached soccer, was on the PTA board, served on a lot of committees at work, had social commitments as well, worked on a number of projects.

Slowly I cut them out. They seemed important but in truth none of them were as important as the life I wanted to create, the changes I wanted to make. Lots of things are important — but which are the absolute most important? Make a decision.

If you are having trouble making a decision, try an experiment. Cut out a commitment just for a little while. See whether you suffer from cutting it out, or whether you like the extra time.

If you’re worried about offending people, don’t. Send an email or make a phone call and explain that you’d love to keep doing the commitment but you just don’t have the time and don’t want to half-ass it. The person might try to talk you into staying but be firm — respect yourself and your time and the changes you’re trying to make.

Here’s a secret: the people and organizations you’ve been helping or working with will live. They will go on doing what they were doing without you, and (omg!) they will survive without you. Your departure will not cause the world to collapse. Let go of the guilt.

Streamline Your Life

Eventually I made many other changes, including:

Slowly I learned to simplify. I simplified my daily routines, my work, my social life, my possessions, my chores, my wardrobe. It took time but it has been more than worth the effort: life is so much better now that I’ve created the time to do what I want to do.



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